Focusing on the youth in the lead up to Youth Day

11 Jun 13

Earlier this month, we explained that this June, we are focusing on youth issues in the lead-up to
Youth Day. Our partnership with government in the You Decide programme is something we are especially proud of, because as a South African corporate citizen, it is up to us to take responsibility for the social impact of the products we sell. We believe in empowering citizens to exercise their freedom by making good decisions – and that extends to our youth.

Our position is that the youth should not drink at all. However, we are aware that preaching generally doesn’t work. Because rebellion and boredom are some of the reasons that teens drink, we need to find ways to get them to understand why underage drinking limits their ability to achieve their dreams.

We cannot pretend that underage drinking is not a problem.

  • 1 in 2 teenagers in the average South African home is a user of alcohol.
  • People who begin drinking before the age of 15 are four times more likely to become alcohol dependent than those who have their first drink at age 20 or older
  • Teenagers who drink are far more likely to try illegal drugs. In fact, research shows that 67% of teens that drink before the age of 15 will go on to use illegal drugs. They are 22 times more likely to use marijuana, and 50 times more likely to use cocaine
  • 60% of Grade 8-11 learners who abused alcohol in a local research study had to repeat their grade

The reasons that teens drink are complex. Sometimes alcohol offers an escape from boredom or hopelessness. Peer pressure and “liquid courage” can be strong incentives to drink. And the idea of rebelling will always have a lot of appeal.

So how do we start a conversation with teens, and get them to understand that when it comes to underage drinking, they really do decide? SAB consulted extensively before launching the first phase of the You Decide programme in January 2012. Organisations involved included The International Centre for Alcohol Policies (ICAP), Alcoholics Anonymous, Love Life, the Association for Responsible Alcohol Use, Life Talk and the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG).

The campaign consists of an industrial theatre roadshow to demonstrate the effects of underage drinking, as well as support material for learners, teachers and parents.

Behavior-change programmes are long term initiatives, but initial results from the first phase of the programme are encouraging. HDI Youth Marketeers recorded an initial reduction of 8% of reported drinking by teens.

Taxi rank activations and visits to taverns to raise awareness of the problem have also formed part of the programme. Our view is that alcohol consumption by adults has been part of the fabric of South African society long before the founding of South African Breweries in the late 19th century. It may be tempting for some to try and ban something that people love doing, but this has never worked.  While we recognize the social impact of irresponsible alcohol consumption, we think it makes a whole lot more sense in the long term to educate and empower South Africa’s citizens to make choices that are right for them.

Though it may be something of a cliché, the youth really are our future - and it is up to us to invest in the kind of tomorrow we all want for ourselves, our communities and our nation. In our next Youth Day post, we will introduce you to a young South African entrepreneur who will explain what Youth Day means to him.

For more information log onto
Help is also available on the You Decide helpline (8am to 8pm daily), on 0800 33 33 77